Author Archives: ari

5 travel and tourism megatrends reflect the rise of new technologies, businesses and prospering nations

2019-03-14

Travel and tourism is already one of the largest, yet also one of the fastest growing global industries. It was estimated to account for about 10% of global GDP in 2017. Entire regions depend on the arrival of tourists, like Bali or Southern Portugal. Since the world is changing, travel is changing. Here are five megatrends that are shaping the way the world travels in the near future.
Valencia, Spain, Europe. crowds at a fiesta.
The five megatrends have been identified by WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council) and Bloomberg Media. WTTC is an organization that represents the Travel & Tourism private sector globally.

The travel and tourism megatrends 2019 according to the WTTC report are as follows.

1. Reality, Enhanced

Anywhere, anytime connectivity that allows access to information, communities and services have led to an experience-driven world that only 20 years was pure science fiction.

Today, it is reality. For some people, it can be harsh reality that has gone a step too far. Digital detox and unplugging from social media, or from the internet altogether for awhile is a real option for stressed minds. New travel products and services can help people who experience anxiety because of their digital habits. It doesn’t have to mean a year on an isolated island, but a trek to a mountain, or a bicycle trip around Lake Geneva. Additionally, wellness and travel have a close relationship that both industries are rapidly developing.

2. Life, Restructured

Work, especially knowledge work, is expected to change dramatically in the near future. Not only because of artificial intelligence (AI), but because of the so called gig economy. People want to work remotely and it already has a big impact on life, commute and travel.

As much as 50% of the workforce in the US is expected to be freelancers by 2027. Many of them – not all – have skills that they can sell to clients while they are actually staying at home, or on the other side of the world. Digital nomads started the trend of traveling and working years ago. Now, both young adults and seasoned knowledge workers are trying the life of a connected nomad.

3. Data, Revolutionised

Automatic collection of data is familiar for all of us because of companies like Facebook and Google. They have been criticized for their collection and of archiving private data for business purposes. Internet of Things (IoT) technologies are connecting fridges, lamps, door bells and practically everything else to the network so that we can monitor and control our homes, police can monitor streets, and Facebook and Google everything.

Travel businesses and officials are also collecting private data from travelers. For businesses, it is a way of learning more about their customers and a way for governments to secure borders. The collection of data will increase – there is no stopping it. It is up to travel businesses to apply the rules of the Europe’s GDPR and respective laws in other regions that are already being prepared across the world.
selfie photograph takers at a viewing platform

4. Power, Redistributed

The economic power and demographic power is shifting to the East. Pretty quickly. China’s GDP is expected to overtake the US by late 2020s. But it is not only about China: also India, Brazil, Russia, Indonesia, Mexico and Turkey are forecasted to grow strongly and comprise 50% of global GDP within the next 30 years.

China has been identified in specific markets, such as in Rovaniemi, Lapland years ago as the number one priority. Years ago, Nordic airline Finnair positioned itself as the hub between Asia and Europe. Today, everyone who has traveled in popular destinations in Europe recently has witnessed large groups of Chinese selfie-takers at all key sights.

5. Consumption, Reimagined

Years of talk of tourism causing pollution and breaking sensitive ecosystems has led to initiatives like sustainable tourism and ethical travel. Some travelers even try to compensate their air miles by reducing their carbon footprint by other means. This is an opportunity for travel businesses that can offer nature-friendly products.

Overtourism – although not discussed in the report – is a serious concern for regions that are getting so many travelers that their way of life and identity are at risk. Venice and Barcelona are examples of cities that are already finding ways to balance the needs of locals and travelers.

The WTTC report concludes that

– Tomorrow’s traveller is not the same as a traveler today. More personalization, enrichment of experiences and autonomy will be required in travel products and services.
– Travel businesses are going to have to deliver authentic experiences to tourists. Some of the experiences are likely to be enhanced by technology, like AR (augmented reality).
– Travel industry will capitalise on new trends, business models and technologies. Businesses that don’t adopt will be left behind. An example is electric vehicles that can assist both locals and visitors to move around in urban environment easily and without polluting the air.

Is reading on an e-reader considered screen time?

2019-02-25

Many parents restrict the time their children (or parents themselves) can access phones, tablets or any electronic devices with a screen. But what about an ereader? Kindle, Kobo, Nook or another device that is designed for reading ebooks has a screen. The difference is that these products have a black-and-white display that doesn’t emit light (unless the optional front light is turned on). Let’s find out what science says about screen time and ereaders.
e-reader on top of paper book stack in sunshine
References to studies that indicate the bright color screens of phones, tablets and computers (LCD and LED technology that emit light) are harmful to the eyes frequently circulate on the internet, just like studies that prove they are not harmful at all. Which is correct? Well, let’s look at the big picture first.

Does your back ache if you sit in a same position through your work day? Do your feet hurt if you stand your entire work shift? Yes, they probably do ache. The same applies to eye muscles. The key is to take breaks from an activity, and give muscles a rest every once in awhile.

Optometrists recommend taking a break

North American Optometrists believe that the essential method to avoid eye strain is to take breaks and let eyes rest – independent of the media used for reading. You may read paper books, ebooks on an ereader or on a tablet – it really doesn’t matter – as long as you take a break every 20 minutes. Optometrists remind that reading a printed book in dim light causes eye strain, as well as a screen that is too bright.
digital nomad working at a terrace near fruit farms of Murcia

This is the fastest medium for learning

Some people like printed books, others like ebooks. If you ask which one is better for reading and learning, answers vary.

Scientists have studied the reading speed on paper, E ink (e-ereader) screen and LCD (tablet) screen. The research paper LCD vs. E-ink: An Analysis of the Reading Behavior concludes that there are no significant differences in reading speed and reading behavior between paper, ereader and tablet. This is after readers have become familiar with their new devices.

“As we know from earlier studies the reading process
when reading on an e-ink-reader is very similar to the
reading process when reading a classic paper book
(Siegenthaler et al., 2011). Since the results in the present
study show that reading on a tablet is not worse than
reading on an e-ink-reader we can conclude that reading
on a tablet is under artificial light conditions not worse
than reading on a classic paper book.”

blue sky and clouds

Eyeglasses with blue light filter

Blue light emitted by color screens has made many people worry because some studies claim it can cause serious diseases, whereas other studies argue blue light can be a cure for high blood pressure and other conditions.

A balanced approach by a number of scientists, however, emphasizes that blue light has always existed, and we have always been affected by it. Look at the blue sky. Natural sleep cycle, and getting enough sleep is the key thing instead of panicking because of the effects of blue light.

If you are offered new reading eyeglasses with a blue light filter (like I was recently), think twice.

The answer

No, reading on an ereader doesn’t have to be counted as screen time – if the device is used for reading. Pay attention to the light so that the screen gets enough light. Take a brief break every 20 minutes for the eyes.

If the screen time restrictions concern social media, YouTube, Instagram, and messaging, most ereaders are fine, because they are running on proprietary software where you can’t install additional apps. Some new ereaders, however, are running on Android software, and it is possible to download applications from Google Play Store on those devices.

The best tools that can replace Google services for privacy-minded people

2018-12-26

I don’t know about you, but I find it extremely annoying when I’m researching, say, New Zealand for an article or a book, and suddenly I’m bombarded with ads of hotels in the destination. Privacy is an important factor why many colleagues have given up Google products, whereas frequent travelers have fed up with Google’s inability to manage travel access to its services. In this article, you will find the best privacy-tested alternatives to Google services.
Google services symbols
Google’s (as well as Facebook’s and many other big internet companies) business model depends on sucking users’ private and non-private data, using it for ad targeting, and selling it to other companies. This is why Google will collect your data even if you specify in product settings that you don’t want to be tracked. So, the safest choice is to switch to another product.

The best user-recommended products to replace Google’s online services

No More Google web site has collected a long list of alternative products that can replace Google products. The alternative products and services are recommended by internet users who have realized they must manage their privacy themselves (and not leave it to big internet companies). Here are a few of the popular choices:

  • Google Search – DuckDuckGo is the most liked privacy-enabled search engine.
  • Gmail – Protonmail is the most recommended email system.
  • Google Chrome – Firefox is the most recommended alternative product to the Google web browser.
  • Google Maps – Openstreetmap
  • YouTube – Vimeo
  • Google Drive – Dropbox
  • Google Docs – Notion
  • Google Analytics – Matomo
  • Hangouts – Telegram
  • Blogger – WordPress
  • Google+ – the social media service is closing in April 2019.

 

In addition to DuckDuckGo search engine, Qwant and StartPage are good alternatives as well. For browsers, Opera and Vivaldi are good choices, too.
Qwant search engine home page

Replacing Google hardware with privacy-friendly products

Google is also marketing hardware products, such as smartphones and home gadgets. That’s not all, because operating system software is closely related to hardware. Operating systems are built in to hardware products. That’s why it makes sense to pay attention to the operating systems as well, because companies like Samsung, LG, Nokia, Huawei and others use a Google operating system in their phones and tablets.

Here are a few alternative products to Google hardware products and operating systems:

  • Android – the most viable alternatives at the moment are Purism Librem 5 smartphone (built on open source Linux) and open source project /e/ that has released a beta operating system for smartphones.
  • Chrome OS – any desktop Linux, like Ubuntu, Manjaro or Mint is an alternative to the Google operating system (although Linux desktops have not been designed exactly for the same purpose).
  • Google Pixel smartphones – We may have to wait until Purism gets its Liberm 5 phone to the shops, or the /e/ foundation manages to convince a hardware manufacturer to factory-install the /e/ software, so that we can buy a phone that doesn’t leak data to Google.
  • Pixel Slate tablet/laptop – a sleek laptop running on Linux is an alternative to the Google tablet/laptop.
  • Google Assistant – voice assistants require computing power that is usually provided by big server computers in data centers. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana all work in the same manner, so it is a choice of brand you trust the most.
  • Home Hub – Google home automation products communicate with this tablet-like device. It knows everything that is going on in the system. If it is connected to the internet, privacy and security risks are inevitable. The best alternative is the brand you trust the most.
  • Nest – all gadgets that control and monitor home lights, alarm system, heating and other functions, and are connected to the internet have security and privacy risks.

Purism Libr smartphone
Purism Librem 5.

What is all this noise about WordPress 5 and Gutenberg?

2018-12-15

There is a moment in every author’s life when the question of having a web site becomes a hot topic. Most book publishing marketers recommend authors to have a dedicated personal or book related web site.

When it comes to online publications – blogs, personal web pages, business sites, news publications, you name it – the most popular online publishing system is WordPress. However, WordPress is going through a big change that affects existing web sites and new publications that use it. This article outlines what WordPress 5 means for people who already use, or are planning to use WordPress for their online publications.
Wordpress mug, 15 years
WordPress 5 was made available in early December 2018. The thing that makes it important for everyone dealing with this publication system is that version 5.0 was the first step into a new kind of WordPress. Eventually, designing web sites, coding new functionality, and writing content will change in WordPress.

First, the writing tool (editor) changed into a new kind of text editor where everything is made of blocks. A heading is a block, a paragraph is a block, an image is a block, and so on. It is not an intuitive way of writing for authors who are used to text processing applications, like Word, LibreOffice or Pages. The good news is that it is perfectly fine to write a blog post or another page in a familiar word processor, copy-paste the text into the new writing tool known as Gutenberg, and hit publish.

Two main methods of getting a personal WordPress web site that you control are signing up to the WordPress.com service, or running your own web site on a server hosted by an internet service provider.

Having a web site at WordPress.com means you don’t have to worry about operating or administering the system, but focus on writing new posts, inserting new photographs, or changing colors on the pages. There are limits what can be customized, but for simple blogs and homepages, the limitations are not meaningful.

Running your own WordPress web site on a hosted server means you must know something about web servers, databases, and the technology of WordPress. The possibilities to customize the site are practically endless. The actual software can be downloaded from WordPress.org. This option often lets you set up multiple sites, if that is something you need.

Independent of the way a WordPress 5 web site has been activated, it is possible to add new functions (plugins), change the layout and look of the pages (themes), and tweak many settings of the publication.
letters on heads of metal arms in typewriter
Since WordPress is in the process of reinventing itself, it is important to take the following into account if you already have, or are planning to start a web site:

A. If you are new to WordPress, forget the confusing talk that concerns versions prior to 5.0. Go directly to version 5, and stay there.
B. If you already have a WordPress site, the long-term strategy should be version 5 and Gutenberg, but be careful when you go there. This article has good tips for everyone wondering what to do with version 5 and the Gutenberg editor.

All and all, WordPress is much more than a simple blogging tool or a site for a simple homepage. That is why it has a learning curve for anyone who is not familiar with web technologies, but it grows with you wherever your journey takes you.

This is why it is so damn difficult to find the right note taking application – but it is possible

2018-12-09

Writers, editors, readers, freelancers, actually all people who do creative work that requires thinking and planning need to take notes. No one wants to lose that billion dollar product idea, solution to a programming problem that presents itself on a mountainbike trail, or perfect plan for backyard plant arrangement. In pre-electronic times humans used to scribble words and sketches on paper, but modern people have gadgets instead of dead wood. How to discover the best app for taking notes on a phone, tablet and PC?
Tavira, Portugal: a non-digital nomad in a park
The excellent article by Tim King helped me realize the root cause for the eternal note taking problem.

Note taking is a highly personal thing. What you want to write down, why you have to make a note of just that thing, where you do it, at what time ideas and plans light a bulb in your head is individual. Do you want to organize your notes, or stash everything in one big pile? Do you sort them by date, topic, tag, keyword, alphabetically, or by person? Do you want to list them by category, or search by any word that points you to the right direction?

The requirements and differences between people are endless. If you have tried to find a note taking app in an application store, you may have wondered why there are so many of them? Hundreds of apps more or less do exactly the same thing. It looks like many programmers have had the same problem, and they have approached it from their personal perspective.

Let’s get Evernote out of the way, here and now, because someone is surely thinking: what is the problem, why not Evernote? I believe it is the most confusing note taking application I have ever tried. After an hour of fiddling around with it, adjusting, tailoring, trying to find a way that would suit me, I gave up. It was impossible for me to use.
Simplenote in a web browser

So, what is the best solution for note taking?

For a year or so, I have been using a combination of tools for writing down drafts, ideas and plans:

Simplenote

For quickly drafting a memo that is available for all your computers and gadgets, Simplenote is a perfect tool. It is perfect because it doesn’t have any features. Well, you can tag and share your notes, but that’s it. The developers have really managed to keep it simple. Excellent. This is a cloud service that can be accessed in any browser, but also dedicated apps are available for mobile devices. Note taking apps that require network connection have risks (of losing your work if the connection brakes down), but Simplenote has been designed to survive them.

Offline apps for mobile devices

Since I know I am not always close enough to mobile phone network signal, I have installed an offline note taking app in every phone and tablet I have. I can’t even remember the names of the applications because it doesn’t matter. I use an offline app only for quickly jotting down something. When I’m back in the network’s signal range, I can email the draft to myself.

Sure, but what’s the best note app for the rest of the world?

The solution I described above works for me, but perhaps not for 92% of people who are looking for one. To make your search for that perfect app easier, consider these points to narrow down the candidates:

If you are an organized person, look for an app that lets you group, categorize, tag, and arrange the notes in a way you want.

If you tend to rush to write down your thoughts without worrying about headings, links, keywords or categories, an app with a few features is probably for you.

Sometimes, it is not possible to type, but it may be possible to speak. Recording a brief voice memo in a note app can be a useful feature. Also, a photo can remind you of an important thing. Snap a photo in the phone camera and attach it to a note.

I’m still looking for that almost-perfect solution for notes. The limitations of Simplenote are evident for someone who uses it as much as I do. Since I have already found another person who has the same problem, perhaps we can discover something some day.

The nostalgic lure of old, beautiful mechanical typewriters

2018-11-23

Electronic typewriters that mimic the look and feel – and to a certain extent – the functionality of old mechanical typewriters are wanted products. Many typewriter-like devices have been introduced lately, such as Rymek, Freewrite and Penna, targeted at distraction-free writing. How does the original product – a completely mechanical typewriter – function when used for real work? I decided to find out.
mechanical typewriter Olympia
I dusted and oiled an old Olympia typewriter in order to discover if it still worked or if it had rusted into a useless piece of metal. It showed its age with a bit of rust here and there, plenty of wear and tear, but the machine still worked!
old typewriter still works despite rust

Bang, bang, clonk claimed the typewriter

It was like a miracle. Push a button, and watch a thin, beautifully molded metal arm hit the paper. Bang, bang, cling, clonk, bang. It sure made noise. Well, everyone in the house could hear I am working, and not watching esports videos on YouTube.

Banging keys, watching letters appear on plain white paper – realizing it was my fingers that made it happen – brought a feeling of achievement. I have made something concrete that can be touched and viewed. Look at it!

A couple of lines later, I realized I must forget about my six-finger semi-rapid typing system, and push the keys with index fingers only. The keys move a long way before they hit the paper. Also, hitting too quickly keys that are located next to each other may tangle them.

Did you know why the large key in computer keyboards is called Return or Enter? Its origin is the large handle – known as carriage return in typewriters – that advances the paper upwards and moves the entire carriage back to the beginning of new line. The handle is my favorite part in the typewriter. What a satisfaction it brings when I pull the handle, and feel the heavy metal smoothly move to a new position with high precision. Ah, the German engineering by Olympia.
Olympia typewriter made in Germany

A typo means disaster

Accidentally, I made a typo. Now what? Leave it there and continue? Rip off the paper, and insert a clean sheet? Re-type the entire page? What?

At this point, I understand the lure of electronic typewriters that resemble their mechanical cousins, with a couple of key differences: it is possible to correct typos and save the typed texts in digital format for further editing.
text on paper type on an old typewriter

It is nostalgia, not a writer’s tool

I know some antique shops sell hundreds of refurbished old machines every month, movies have been made of typewriters, books have been written about these mechanical wonders (actor Tom Hanks seems to be the unofficial poster boy of the typewriter-movement), musicians are playing them like instruments, but are they seriously suggesting that typewriters should be used for real work? No, I don’t think so.

Of course, just like a professional carpenter may use a manual drill to make a unique special effect in a project, a professional writer may use a typewriter (probably an electronic version) for a specific reason, like avoiding distractions when working.

Mechanical typewriters certainly are wonders of old school engineering. They are beautiful products, enjoyable to photograph. You can see how they work, and appreciate the precise movement of the parts. If they break down, you can repair most problems by yourself.

Nostalgia is written all over the old keys, ribbons and carriages. Yet, nothing changes the fact that the world has moved on.

letters on heads of metal arms in typewriter
Olympia mechanical typewriter ready for writing

The special screen of Remarkable paper tablet/ereader is tailored for handwriting and drawing

2018-11-12

The Remarkable ereader/writing tablet has already been available for a year, but only the recent software upgrade delivered the great promise of the product: it can convert handwriting to text along with a selection of new tools that aid writing and drawing on the screen. The key principal of Remarkable is to be a tool that feels like paper and pen when used for writing and sketching. The company says they spent four years developing display-stylus technology that mimics the tactility and response of paper.
Remarkable paper tablet/ereader
The Remarkable writing tablet/ereader is priced at 599 euros. Essentially, you get a 10-inch ereader with a special display laid over E ink display technology that turns the device into a slate for writing and drawing. The stylus is included.

The display-stylus combination can recognize a wide variety of pressures and angles, producing results like handwriting or drawing on paper would produce.

The Canvas display, as Remarkable calls it, is something that only Remarkable has, making it different from other 10-inch ereader/writing tablets that have been introduced during 2017 and 2018.

One of the new features is the conversion of handwriting into text that can be edited and inserted into other documents. Here is a video clip that shows how the handwriting conversion works on the Remarkable:

The fall 2018 software update to the Remarkable writing tablet has so many new features that it makes me wonder how all those customers who bought the product before the update used their device? Probably many of them had a specific task in mind how they wanted to use the product, like researchers who have to read a lot of documents or knowledge workers who have to study both technical and business documents. In fact, Sony had identified the latter requirement a couple of years ago, and developed the ereader/writing tablet DPT-CP1 for this market.
Remarkable writing tablet/e-reader
Apple and Microsoft have also discovered this market, but have developed tablets to meet the needs of people who want to write with a pen. The iPad Pro and Surface Pro are powerful, high end tablets that allow handwriting, note taking, and drawing with a stylus.

Other e-reader vendors have also turned their attention to 8 and 10 inch devices. Many of these products come with stylus that let you write and draw on the screen. Some of the manufacturers are Onyx and Boyue.

Remarkable writing tablet/ereader key features and specifications

Remarkable pen / stylus

10.3-inch monochrome display in 1872×1404 resolution (226 DPI). Multi-point capacitive touch.
Partially powered by E-ink Carta technology.
The screen has paper-like surface friction. No glass parts, making it robust.
The included stylus features a high-friction pen tip. Tilt detection and 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity.
Dimensions 177 x 256 x 6.7mm (6.9 x 10.1 x .26 inches).
Weight approximately 350 gram (.77 pounds).
Wi-Fi.
Micro USB.
8 GB internal storage, about 100,000 pages.
512 MB RAM.
1 GHz ARM A9 CPU processor.
Operating system is a customized Linux software called Codex.
Can open PDF and ePUB documents and ebooks.
Menu language: English.
3000 mAh battery.
Remarkable has its own cloud service where product owners can automatically sync the works they draft on the slate.

A video by Remarkable shows the paper tablet’s many features for note taking and sketching:

The curious case of Magik Book, an innovation seeking rationale

2018-11-06

Product catalogs are bestsellers among certain types of readers. Catalogs are made for browsing, viewing beautiful photographs and for dreaming of owning products listed on a glossy paper. Of course, catalogs were one of the first print products to move to the internet because of cost savings, accessibility and ease of keeping them up-to-date. Magik Book, however, believes print catalogs are more important than ever, and has integrated catalogs with mobile devices.
Magik Book paper product catalog and tablet app
The Magic Book concept is to sync a tablet or phone with the page of a product catalog. For instance, a company wants to create a catalog of garden furniture. It doesn’t have to be as thick and extensive as an Ikea catalog, but attractive photos taken in beautiful gardens is all-important. Before opening the catalog, a potential customer must download the Magik Book app to his or her phone or tablet. As the customer turns pages of the paper catalog, the app on the mobile device displays additional information about the product featured on the print page. In the app, it is possible to share the information to social media channels or buy the product.

An introduction video to the Magik Book below shows how it works:

In effect, the simple task of browsing a product catalog has been turned into a tech challenge that requires the shopper to have two tools at hand: the print catalog and a mobile device (with an app downloaded as well, of course).

Instead of having the entire catalog on the mobile device and allowing the reader to access all possible information in the app, an awkward integration of paper catalog and mobile device has been established. Maybe the sync between paper catalog and mobile device works via NFC, but that’s not essential. The point is that it is difficult to see why anyone would invest in two things (paper catalog and mobile app) when everything can be provided to customers in one neat digital package.

The company behind Magik Book is based in Portugal. We have a suggestion: have a vacation in Portugal, and get to know the local culture and business customs before considering a project that involves this technology.

Via Ubergizmo.

UPDATE: The syncing of the paper catalog and the mobile application works via Magik Book’s patented “advanced magnetic field technology” (magnets in each page). Thank you for the additional information, Magik Book!

Trends in book business: small publishers win big traditional publishers in specific ebook genres

2018-10-12

A new report on the state of the ebook, audiobook and print book markets in the US was recently delivered by the number-crunching wizard Data Guy at Digital Book World Conference 2018. The statistics – that cover almost the entire online books sales in the US – indicate that readers of different book genres have vastly different preferences on book formats. Let’s analyze book publishing trends that can be identified from the Data Guy’s statistics.
ereader on top of stack of books

Strong sales of ebooks and audiobooks continue

The Author Earnings report measures ebook, audiobook and print book sales in the US online bookstores from April 2017 until September 2018. The total sales during these 18 months were:

Ebooks 4.0 billion dollars, 781 million units
Audiobooks 2.6 billion dollars, 145 million units
Print books 7.3 billion dollars, 407 million units

Roughly half (54%) of print books are sold by brick-and-mortar bookstores in the US. Even if we add print books sold by physical bookstores to the numbers that were achieved by online stores, ebook unit sales nearly match print book unit sales in the US.

The trend identified in the Author Earnings report is the decline of sales via brick-and-mortar bookstores, reduction in the number of physical bookstores, and increasing sales via online stores. Amazon is a dominant player that is still growing its market share in all book formats, also print. In fact, for some nonfiction genres, Amazon accounts 70-75% of all print book sales in the US.
bookshop of antique books in Spain

Ebook vs print book market share is highly dependent on genre

Erotica and mystery genres have been regarded the most successful categories in ebooks, and Data Guy’s report confirms the wisdom for mystery genre, at least. Business & Money titles in nonfiction category are more popular as ebooks than print books. The following numbers indicate sales only at online bookstores in the US.

57% of Business and Money category unit sales are ebooks and audiobooks.

59% of these ebooks are published by other than big publishers (such as indies, self-publishers, small publishers). The situation with audiobooks is completely different: 80.6% of audiobooks were made available by big publishers, and 56.5% of print books are from big publishers.

50% of Health, Fitness and Dieting unit sales are ebooks and audiobooks.

62% of these ebooks were published by small publishers, indies and self-publishers. 81.6% of audiobooks were produced by big publishers. 54.7% of print sales were made by big publishers.

73% of Teen and Young Adult unit sales are ebooks and audiobooks.

A massive 71.6% of these ebooks were published by small publishers and self-publishers, whereas 74.7% of audiobooks came from big publishers, and 65.2% of print books were by big publishers.

93% of Mystery, Thriller and Suspense category unit sales are ebooks and audiobooks.

52.9% of ebooks by big publishers, 93.1% of audiobooks by big publishers, 89% of print books big publishers.

Small publishers see opportunities in book formats and genres where the upfront investment is low – often ebooks. Audiobooks and print require more upfront investment, and large companies can afford financial risks better than small businesses.

Data scraping

Ever since Data Guy published his first report on ebook sales that included statistics never seen before, book industry experts have been discussing about the true state of digital book market versus print market. Independent of what you think of Data Guy’s number collection methods (that he calls data scraping), there is plenty of demand for his statistics in the book industry. Bookstat provides detailed reports on book sales for publishers without months of delay. When Bookstat numbers were tested against NPD PubTrack statistics that measure the ebook sales of big publishers in the US, the numbers matched within 6% accuracy.

You can listen to Data Guy himself explaining the data scraping method and other details in a podcast by Mark Dawson.

The new EU copyright law takes a stance for rights owners like authors and publishers

2018-09-16

The Parliament of European Union has accepted the new Copyright Directive proposed by the Commission. The EU Parliament, Commission and Council will negotiate the details, aiming at having the law proposal ready for EU member states by the end of 2018. Although some details may still change, the overall purpose and objectives have been accepted by the Parliament. What does the new EU copyright directive mean for authors and book publishers?

boy reading in library, books on a shelf
The article 11 and article 13 are the most discussed items in the copyright directive. The directive includes many other important items, like making digital content product available across borders (inside EU), making it easier to deal with data mining in research institutions, and other clarifications for use of copyrighted material in academic and educational environments.

Author/publisher relationship in the article 12

The article 12 deals with author-publisher relationship directly, aiming at giving publishers more rights for compensation when a work is licensed, for instance, to a library. In many countries, libraries pay small fees to authors for book loans. Publisher don’t usually benefit from this. The directive wanted to make it possible.

Some national author organizations were concerned about the article 12 that it would have restricted author’s copyright, but the wording of the article was changed to clarify it before the Parliament voted.

Change of business model for news aggregators indicated in article 11

Some European countries, like Germany and Spain have already tried to make big internet service platforms pay for the content they extract from newspapers and other news sources. Often this involves the title, a snippet and a link to the page where the news was published. So far, attempts to charge news aggregators like Google have failed.

It may appear an innocent activity, but when companies, such as Google and Facebook do it on a massive scale, it is actually a good business case for them. Valuable free content that an algorithm only has to sort and display to visitors.

The new directive gives news publishers a strong negotiating position to charge news aggregators and other internet services that use publishers’ news items in newsfeeds and other functions of their sites.

Authors and book publishers who have blogs where they comment on news and link to news sources need to follow closely what the exact requirements and practices for free linking and referring to news sources will be as EU negotiations proceed. Linking to an external web page, and extracting text or photos from an external web page are two completely different things.

I have not been able to find anything in the EU Directive that would restrict linking to web pages, be it a newspaper or anything else.
Tavira, Portugal: a non-digital nomad in a park

It is business as usual for authors and publishers despite article 13

In the EU, a creator of a work (author, composer, film maker) always owns the copyright to the work. He or she can transfer (sell) the rights or partial rights to someone else, like a publisher. Anyway, the owner of the rights decides where, how and who can read, listen or view the work.

This basic principle of copyright law hasn’t changed at all, but EU wants to adopt Article 13 that enforces the rights owner’s rights specifically on the internet. The article more or less directly addresses dominant internet services, like YouTube, Facebook and Wikipedia “service providers that store and provide to the public access to large amounts of works or other subject-matter uploaded by their users”.

EU’s point seems to be to make it absolutely clear that an internet service platform is responsible for all the content available on the service – user-uploaded or otherwise made available. It also makes it clear that all copyrighted works shared on a platform must have the rights owner’s explicit consent.

There are no grey zones anymore. The rights owner is entitled to a decent compensation if he or she has agreed that the work is made available on an internet service.

The curious thing in the article 13 is that it mentions “effective content recognition technologies” as a measure for preventing unlicensed content on a sharing service. Why on earth does it have to mention how a monitoring task can be executed? Leave it to the innovative businesses to create a solution. Hopefully this will be changed or removed during the negotiations.

For an author or book publisher, the article 13 is not earth-shattering news. If a copyrighted ebook has been uploaded to a sharing service, it has always been a copyright violation and the rights owner has been able to ask officials to intervene.

Online encyclopedias that have borrowed lengthy pieces of content from nonfiction books should look into their practices before problems arise. Also some fan fiction services may have content available extracted from fiction books. Right owners’ consent must be sought in each case.

The big fuss about the EU copyright law primarily concerns mixing and sharing culture

Most music makers, photographers, film makers, writers and publishers are happy to see a strong stance in favor of copyright protection, but some artists see risks in restrictions. The EU directive is trying to level the playing field between the rights owners (who can be a self-published author without any legal help) and internet giants that dominate search, advertising, social media and sharing services.

New works – music, films, books, photos – can be, and always have been, created using existing works more or less directly in the process. In the digital era, a new song can have the tune of “Every Breath You Take” but with new words and beat. Digitally merging old and new photographs or video clips is easy.

Sharing exciting video clips and funny photos or pieces of texts on social media is so common we don’t think about it anymore. Sometimes, someone has done a lot of work to produce that piece of work.

Loud advocates who want the current fuzzy situation to continue argue that preventing sharing or mixing is against freedom of speech and harmful for the entire internet.

It is true that EU’s new directive is straightforward with copyright owners’ rights, and eventually it will have an impact how sharing, mixing and news aggregation services operate on the internet. The services must change their processes so that all new content that becomes available on the site has cleared ownership checks, and if it is a copyrighted work, an agreement with its owner is in place.

Very little, if anything, will change because of EU’s new copyright law for an author who is writing his or her next book, or for a publisher that is investing in the production of a new book. The business model, after all, is still the same for them: produce an original work and market it to an audience that pays for the product.

Ereaders are growing bigger and more powerful: Icarus Illumina XL6

2018-09-11

Dutch ereader vendor Icarus has introduced a device with large 7.8-inch E ink screen that also has enough processing power to run a recent version of Android operating system. In addition to reading ebooks or viewing PDF documents, Android applications can be installed to the device, enhancing its functionality.
Icarus Illumina XL6, e-reader with 7.8-inch screen, Android
Four features make the Illumina XL6 an attractive option for ebook lovers who are looking for a powerful ereader device:

– Large and sharp 7.8 inch E ink screen. 300 dots per inch density means it is as sharp or sharper than printed book pages.
– The ereader is running on Android 6 operating system. This is a relatively recent version of Android software which means that a vast number of applications on the Google Play app store are available for the e-reader – although not each and every app is compatible.
– A powerful processor (for an ereader) that actually makes it possible to run many applications downloaded from the Google Play Store.
– The ereader doubles as an MP3 player, making it possible to listen to audiobooks and music.

It is likely that Kindle ebooks can be read on the Illumina XL6. The trick how to do it is to download Kindle for Android application from the Google Play Store to the device. Until we (or someone else) have tried the Kindle app on an actual production device, and confirmed it works, we can’t be absolutely sure if the Kindle app can open ebooks.

The Icarus Illumina XL6 is priced at 229.95 euros with Dutch VAT, and without VAT 190.04 euros (here you can check the vendor’s web shop for any updates on the price). Icarus ships products to all continents, but not to South America and Russia.

Icarus Illumina XL6 e-reader specifications

7.8-inch E Ink Carta HD screen.
Display resolution 1872 x 1404, 300 dots per inch (DPI).
Touch screen, adjustable frontlight.
Android 6 operating system with Google Play application store.
16GB of internal storage space.
No memory card slot.
2GB RAM.
Rockchip RK3368 octa-core, 64-bit processor.
WiFi 802.11 B/G/N.
USB 2.0.
Bluetooth.
Compatible ebook formats: PDF, FB2, EPUB, RTF, MOBI, TXT, HTML.
Plays MP3 audio files, for audiobooks and music.
Displays JPG, BMP, GIF, PNG images.
Included applications: File Manager, Music Player, Dictionary, Image Viewer, Library, Reading.
Battery 2800mAh, thousands of page refreshes at a charge.
Dimensions 145 x 200x 9mm.
Weight 275 gr.

Reading functions
Go to Page
Text Search
Bookmarks
Table of Contents
Screen Rotation
Auto Page Turning
Book Information
Music/audiobook Player
Adjust Font Size
Adjust Font Type (in EPUB documents)
Adjust Page Margins (in EPUB documents)
Install new fonts (TrueType)

Via The Digital Reader.

Product review: Wunder360 C1 camera for 360-degree travel photography

2018-08-27

Wunder360 C1 is a 360-degree camera that can record video and photographs that show everything around the camera (up and down, right and left, front and back). It is an entry-level, budget-friendly camera aimed at people who just want to snap images, perhaps apply a special effect to the image and share it. How does the Wunder360 deal with travel photography? Here is our review.

Wunder360 C1 360-degree camera
In our case, the primary application for a 360-degree camera was travel photography. Especially, taking images in spaces like a room in a castle, filming road trips, recording city or village life, recording events that are difficult to capture with one camera (e.g. Tour of France bicycle race or a parade). Now that we have tried the Wunder360 C1 camera in all these situations, we can analyse the results.

Capturing a space like a room

The camera is good at recording a space around it, especially if there is enough light in the room or in the space. We tested this in a castle, and it is fascinating how much information it is possible to discover when viewing the 360-degree photos or videos afterwards. Also, a section of, for instance, a park with plenty of objects can be easily captured. A tripod is required for the camera.

Filming road trips

We installed the camera on a tripod that was standing on the dashboard. We wanted to take advantage of the image stabilization and camera direction features. The result: not worth it. The stabilization was not good enough for us and directing the camera doesn’t work well when the camera itself is moving with the car.

Recording city or village life

Excellent results. The idea was to leave the camera in a central place, like on a statue, in a large tree or on a bench, and let it film life on the street or on a square. The camera is so small that only few, if any, passing by pedestrian noticed it (we were hiding behind the statue so that we could see the camera).

We also tried walking with the camera, letting it record crowds on a busy street and people in cafes, but it didn’t produce good video in this situation. The image stabilization can’t correct movement caused by walking.

Capturing the motion of an event

Events, like parades, races (bicycle races, motor races, triathlon), and others have a lot of movement as many things are happening at the same time. A 360-degree camera can capture everything, and the Wunder360 has a feature that lets you direct the camera where you want after recording the video. This was exactly what we wanted, and this was exactly what we got. Good results, although the video quality after exporting the material to MP4 is not very good. Also audio sounds strange. The camera was standing still on a tripod in our tests at the Tour of France.

The street price of the Wunder360 C1 varies between 150-190 euros/dollars. It is available at online stores, and also at the vendor’s homepage.

In addition to the camera, you must have a smartphone or tablet that is new and powerful enough so that it can work with those 360 videos.
Wunder360 camcorder 360-degree video recording, edit on smartphone

These are the steps for working with the Wunder360 videos

The way a 360-degree camera works is different from ordinary cameras, and naturally, the resulting images are different from images or videos taken on an ordinary camera. These are the key steps for recording a video on the Wunder360 and sharing it on social media channels.

1. Specify a Wi-Fi name for the Wunder360.
2. Choose the recording mode in Wunder360. We used high-resolution 30fps mode.
3. Download the Wunder app on your smartphone or tablet.
4. Record videos and photos in Wunder360.
5. Connect your smartphone or tablet to the Wunder360 via Wi-Fi.
6. You should see a list of photos and videos on your mobile app that are stored on the camera.
7. You can view the images and download them to your mobile device. All photos and videos are 360-degree images.
8. Downloaded videos can be edited (e.g. camera direction) in the mobile device app and exported as ordinary MP4 files (that can be further edited in a PC video editing software). Exported files are not 360-degree videos, but only show the areas you selected in the camera direction feature.

Conclusion: take it or leave it?

For our travel photography needs, the Wunder360 C1 has just enough functionality so that we will carry it along on our trips. The small and low-cost camera has a specific role in our camera bag.

This is our first 360-degree camera, and it was a surprise how different its usage and output were compared to an ordinary camera. Fortunately, we had a specific need for it, and knew what we were going to do with it. That’s the key for anyone planning to buy one: it is essential to consider the applications for the 360-degree camera and then verify it has those features.

Tour de France road cycling race passes through the village of Bossost in Pyrenees mountains.

Wunder360 key specifications

Wunder360 360-degree video camera

2 lenses. Stitching In-Camera Real-time (when you view a video or photo, it is already one 360-degree image)
Focal length/aperture f=0.94 F2.4
Sensor Type CMOS
Photo resolution 4096 x 2048
Video resolution 3040×1520 at 30fps, or 2176×1088 at 60fps
Camera settings exposure and white balance
Status display 32 x 64 pixels (for battery, Wi-Fi, recording mode info)
Free application for Apple iOS and Android devices (required for viewing, editing, and sharing images)
Livestream to Facebook and YouTube
Important features in the app: image stabilization and ability to direct the camera movement before exporting the video to MP4.
Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4GHz/5GHz
Micro USB 2.0 port
Tripod mount at the bottom
Microphone
MicroSD memory card slot
Battery 1000mAh
Weight 95g
Dimensions 109.3 x 45 x 35 mm